Students in front of a poster at Aletheia.


Health Professions Students Present Their Work at Aletheia

May 15, 2023

Pictured: Physician assistant studies students present their research poster “The Effect of Cadaver Laboratory Access on Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) Scores” at the Aletheia Research Symposium.

Every spring, the School of Health Professions hosts the Aletheia Research Symposium, during which students showcase their scholarly findings and defend their capstone projects. (In Greek mythology, Aletheia is the goddess of truth.) For the last three years, the academic event was held across two days of virtual Zoom meetings, so this year’s attendees were abuzz at gathering in person once again.

On May 9, students presented 26 posters, representing research that ranged across graduate-level studies in physical therapy (D.P.T.), physician assistant studies, and occupational therapy, and undergraduate-level studies in nursing, health sciences, and exercise science

Kicking off the afternoon were opening remarks from Associate Professor of Physical Therapy Rosemary Gallagher, Ph.D., President Hank Foley, Ph.D., Dean Gordon Schmidt, Ph.D., and Associate Professor of Health Sciences Amerigo Rossi, Ed.D.

Attendees also heard from keynote speaker Christopher Voltmer (D.P.T. ’08), who presented the results of his dissertation, “Factors Influencing Selection of Fall and Balance Assessment Tools and Patient Management by Home Care Physical Therapists.” He discussed the increased risk of falls with advancing age and noted the importance of physical therapists’ education and experience in providing clinicians with a framework to improve current best practices in patient assessment and care management.

The student researchers then manned their posters as attendees and peers mingled, discussing each other’s scholarly work. Following the poster session, Professor of Physical Therapy and Aletheia Co-Founder John P. Handrakis, P.T., D.P.T., Ed.D., led the platform presentation session, where eight groups of D.P.T. students formally presented their research on stage.

“It’s so important to be able to get different perspectives on your research and gain new ideas that you can work through,” said physician assistant studies student Danielle Vaiano, who presented “The Effect of Cadaver Laboratory Access on Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) Scores” with her peers Bruna Faria Martins, Monica Mitrache, and Alexandra Schlapp. “This is a great interdisciplinary event to gain insight into what’s important to other health professions and explain what’s important to us. This is great for the School of Health Professions community.”

Co-chairs of the Research and Scholarship Committee, Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy Beth Elenko, Ph.D., and Associate Professor of Physician Assistant Studies Shinu Kuriakose, DHSc, led a panel of faculty experts, including Instructor of Health Sciences Alexander Rothstein, Assistant Professor of Physical Therapy Michael Tautonico, D.P.T., Associate Professor of Physician Assistant Studies Kristine Prazak-Davoli, and Clinical Associate Professor of Nursing Mary Frances McGibbon, among others in judging the 26 poster projects.

“Today is the culmination of your research activity—this is a wonderful learning experience,” said President Foley in his address to the student researchers. “As we move New York Tech closer to becoming an R2 status institution, meaning a very high research activity university, research will take on an even more important role in the overall student experience. I think the School of Health Professions is very well positioned for the future.”

The following student teams were selected as first-place winners in their respective categories:

Health and Medicine

“Perspectives of Health Care Professionals on Sensory Processing Disorder”

Student Researchers: Rivkah Ausfresser, Sarah Berg, Toby Bertram, Nechama Greenfield, Elisheva Lansky, Yehudit Niazoff, Rebecca Pimentel, Shira Toledano

Advisor: Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy Mary Squillace, Ph.D., DOT, OTR/L


“Social Participation and Leisure for Older Adult Muslims”

Student Researcher: Safia Syed Razzaq

Capstone Mentor: Adjunct Instructor of Occupational Therapy Melanie Evangelista, OTR/L

Site Mentor: Tariq Syed, president of the Shelter Rock Islamic Center


“Efficacy of a Feedback-Controlled Heated Vest to Address Thermoregulatory Dysfunction during Cold Exposure in Persons with Spinal Cord Injury”

Student Researchers: Jessica Polizzi and Wilber Parada

Advisor: Professor of Physical Therapy John Handrakis, P.T., D.P.T., Ed.D.


“Efficacy of a Powered Orthotic Exoskeleton in Promoting Mobility in Persons with Chronic Stroke”

Student Researchers: Shabana Sahai, Korishma Patram, Michael Elliot

Advisor: Professor of Physical Therapy John Handrakis, P.T., D.P.T., Ed.D.